According to tradition, it was on this day that the son of Jacob, Issachar, was born. One of the most notable verses about Issachar and the sons of Issachar is found in 1 Chronicles 12:
“And of the children of Issachar which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” (1 Chronicles 12:32)
It is interesting that the traditional birthdate of Issachar falls on the day after the date that Judaism recognizes the destruction of both Temples (9 Av) in Jerusalem. The 9th of Av is a solemn day of loss and mourning and, considering what the destruction of those temples represented, it is understandable. It’s very clear to us, in Scripture, that the Creator wants His people to know what they are to do. He wants us to discern the times in which we live so that we know what to avoid and what to pursue. Had the generation that witnessed the destruction of the Temple been more spiritually aware, perhaps that catastrophe could have been avoided. Had they been committed to pursuing God’s purpose for them as a people, the 9th of Av may not be a day of mourning.
Where you and I are concerned, we must understand that our role in this world is not to “hang on until Jesus comes.” Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of those we encounter because we are pursuing our Father and His Will. I say that because far too many of God’s people assume that all the bad news of today means it’s time to batten down the hatches and hold on. Yes, we are to be prudent and we should prepare for difficult times in a practical way, but that doesn’t mean we are now exempted from our mission to be a light to those in darkness.
Even though the times are perilous, we mustn’t fall for the allure of self-preservation at the expense of being committed servants of the Almighty. Worse yet is to be those who serve their own interests while claiming to serve God’s purposes. According to Jewish history, this kind of selfish behavior is the very thing that led to the destruction of the Temple. Conversely, the sons of Issachar understood the importance of knowing what God’s purposes for His people were. When they discerned what to do, they instructed the people to do it and the people heeded their command.
Knowing what to do, presently and in the future, hints at a knowledge of the past. We understand from Scripture, that if we are to understand what’s going on in our day, we have to understand what’s already happened (Isaiah 46:8-10). God tells us these things of the past because He wants us to understand what tomorrow holds and, consequently, what we are to do today. It is clear that the lessons of the past teach us what to do and, sometimes, what not to do, as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 10:11. In fact, in that verse, Paul admonishes those who are living in the end of days not to repeat the mistakes God’s people have made in the past.
All of this is to say that it is important for us to properly understand the times in which we live. It’s not just for the sake of having knowledge of the times, but the understanding of the times is to provoke us to fulfill the role we are to play in this age. It is not time to retreat to our safe place but it’s time to take our place in God’s plan and be the salt and light. As I said, today’s bad news is not our signal to run and hide, or to focus so intently on the signs that we forget why He’s giving us those signs. You can get so focused on what’s going on in the heavens and earth, with the sea and the waves roaring, and completely forget this is happening in order to remind us that redemption is at hand. So if it’s getting dark, that’s not our cue to go tell everyone what is already obvious; the growing darkness is our stimulus to shine. Remember what the Messiah said to those religious people who failed to discern what God was showing them:
“When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3)
There are a lot of things going on in our world, and much of it is very distressing. Yes, we need to take note of those things but we don’t need to become so focused on these things that we forget why the Creator is alerting us to the dangers around us. We need to be the children of Issachar for today’s world, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, that we might tell God’s people what needs to be done. It’s getting dark and now it’s time to shine, as never before, that His purposes might be fulfilled though our lives and in our lives.